Film Noir Friday: The Miami Story [1954]

miami story poster

Welcome! The lobby of the Deranged L.A. Crimes theater is open. Grab a bucket of popcorn, some Milk Duds and a Coke and find a seat. Tonight’s feature is THE MIAMI STORY starring Barry Sullivan, Luther Adler, John Baer and Adele Jergens.

Before the main feature I’ve added a special short subject, courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Please don’t try these shooting stunts at home!

Enjoy the movie!

TCM says:

In post-World War II America, a rise in gangster activity prompts the formation of an investigative committee by the U.S. Senate, forcing many criminals to flee to the safety of the tourist-filled and ineffectually policed Miami. When two Cuban gangsters are gunned down upon arrival at Miami’s airport by gangster boss Tony Brill’s right-hand man, Ted Delacorte, and police chief Martin Belman is unable to secure an indictment, journalist Charles Earnshaw summons several prominent Miami businessmen for assistance. The men are dubious about stopping Brill’s ruthless criminal machine, until attorney Frank Alton suggests a plan.

 

 

The Green Scarf Bandit, Conclusion

Two weeks after he was shot by Sheriff’s deputies James Monroe Rudolph, the Green Scarf Bandit, was on the mend in the prison ward of General Hospital. He was reported to be in a weakened condition, but evidently not too weak to confess to scores of robberies, burglaries, assaults and kidnappings. Deputy District Attorney Howard Hurd and a couple of Sheriff’s deputies, including one of my favorites from the era, Detective Sergeant Ned Lovretovich, were on hand to witness the statements made by Monroe.

ned_green scarf

Photo dated 29 January 1951. James M. Rudolph; Sheriff’s Sergeant Dave Terry; Attorney Abraham Becker; Sheriff’s Department Sergeant Ned Lovretovich (walking behind Rudolph). [Photo courtesy of USC online collection.]

Monroe had been captured and critically wounded by deputies following a call from eight year old Jimmy Jones. Jimmy had telephoned the cops after bravely feigning sleep while Rudolph kidnapped his parents at gunpoint. It was Jimmy’s call that resulted in the capture of the the Green Scarf Bandit. For his courage Sheriff Eugene Biscailuz had awarded the boy a miniature Sheriff’s badge.

The authorities were keen to get Rudolph in front of a judge, but his physical condition delayed the proceedings. Another complication was that there was so much stolen loot in the Ruldoph home in Placerville that it was going to take some time for it to be sorted out and put on trucks so that it could be placed into evidence. Cops estimated the worth of the stolen goods to be in excess of $60,000 [$537,851.00 in current U.S. dollars].

Finally on January 30th James Monroe Rudolph, clad in his prison ward jammies, was sufficiently healed from his multiple gunshot wounds to appear for arraignment before Municipal Judge F. Ray Rennett. In the complaint, sworn to by Deputy Sheriff Dave Terry and issued by the Deputy D.A., Rudolph found himself charged with five counts of robbery, four of attempted robbery, nine of kidnapping and two of false imprisonment. Four of the robberies involved food markets from which Rudolph had made off with thousands of dollars in cash.

One of the robberies had been particularly bold. Just a few days prior to the kidnapping of B.G. Jones and his wife, the Green Scarf Bandit had used the same M.O. to rob a La Crescenta supermarket manager and his wife twice in one day!

greenscarf_twiceAlfred W. Boegler and his wife Irene were awakened at about midnight when a man in a green scarf mask climbed through their bedroom window. Holding a pistol on the couple, the bandit politely turned his head as Irene changed from her nightgown into street clothes so that she could accompany her husband and the crook to the Shopping Bag Market at 3100 Foothill Blvd in La Crescenta.

boegler_greenscarfAlfred related to investigators a conversation he had with the masked intruder:

“When we asked him what was to be done about our two sleeping children, he said that it was too cold to take children outdoors–and that they might get injured if there was a night watchman who started any shooting. He said if we co-operated in driving him to the store and opening the safe, we would be safely back home within 30 minutes.”

Hey, he may have been a gun wielding robber but he wasn’t necessarily indifferent to the comfort and safety of young children. As the couple’s two daughters, Barbara (4) and Karen (18 months) slept soundly, Boegler drove his wife and the robber to the market. Once they arrived at the store the gunman used Irene as a hostage while Alfred went into the store with a passkey and turned off the burglar alarm. All the while the gunman apologized saying that his boss was “pretty tough” and he’d face dire consequences if the job didn’t go off perfectly.

After looting two safes at the market the bandit let the Boegler’s out of their car at the corner of Altura Street and Pennsylvania Avenue. They phoned the Montrose Sheriff’s station (the same station young Jimmy Jones would call a few days later) and walked the short distance to their home. They collected their two kids and then went to the home of Boegler’s brother, William. When the Boegler’s returned to their own home a mere six hours after being taken from their warm bed they were met by the green scarfed gunman who was waiting patiently for them in the kitchen.

“You double-crossed me. My boss doesn’t like that. We missed one safe.”

The man then kidnapped the Boeglers for a second time, emptied out a third safe, and fled.

Rudolph may have thought of himself only as a bandit, but two of the kidnapping charges involved bodily harm, which in California, because of the Little Lindbergh Law could be sufficient to send him to the gas chamber.

Following the kidnapping and murder of Charles Lindbergh, Jr. on March 1, 1932, Congress adopted the Federal Kidnapping Act (aka Lindbergh Law), a law which allowed the feds step in once kidnappers had crossed state lines with their victim. There were were several states, California among them, that implemented their own versions of the law which applied in cases of kidnapping when victims were not transported across state lines; hence Little Lindbergh. California’s Little Lindbergh statute made kidnapping with bodily harm a crime eligible for the death penalty.greenscarf_death

In 1951 when the Green Scarf Bandit was busted the Red Light Bandit (Caryl Chessman) was already on California’s death row for kidnapping — he had been convicted under the Little Lindbergh law. Knowing that another bandit was sitting on death row may have provided the motivation for Rudolph to plead guilty to three felony charges: armed robbery, kidnapping for purpose of robbery and false imprisonment. With his plea Rudolph was able to evade the death penalty. For his misdeeds James Monroe Rudolph was sentenced to a term of from five years to life.

The Green Scarf Bandit had no intention of serving out his sentence. About seven months after arriving at Folsom Prison Rudolph and his cell mate, Claude Newton, attempted to break out.

The men had cut holes in the iron cell doors and were waiting for the right moment to bolt when they were discovered by guards. They had stuffed overalls with paper and placed the decoys in their bunks. Newton had even braided a rope out of bed sheets and put a hook on the end so that they could scale the wall.

Warden Robert A. Heinze had the last word on the attempted escape:

“Everything was set to go on the escape but it didn’t work.”

 

 

The Green Scarf Bandit, Part 1

bg jonesIt was just after 6:00 a.m. on December 10, 1951 when a bandit broke into the home of supermarket manager B.G. Jones and his wife Juanita. The bandit had tied a green scarf around the lower half of his face, and he was holding a weapon. He slugged B.G. with a leaded sap and Juanita screamed. In a gruff voice the man asked her if there was anyone else in the house:

“Just my little boy, and he’s asleep.”

But eight year old Jimmy Jones wasn’t asleep, he was playing possum. He feigned sleep even as the masked man entered his bedroom with a flashlight and looked around.

Not many kids would have had remained as cool and collected as Jimmy, but the boy had an advantage, he had been prepared for the possibility of a break-in by his father.

B.G. had recently warned Jimmy him that there was a bad guy in the area who was kidnapping supermarket managers and forcing them to open the safes at their stores. B.G. had told Jimmy if he heard anyone break into the house that he was to lie still, wait until it was safe, then run to the phone and call the Sheriff’s Montrose substation; and that’s exactly what Jimmy did.

gunman trapped

Jimmy told the Sheriff who answered the phone:

“A man just took my father and mother away to make my daddy open the safe.”

Then he said:

“He shined his light right in my face, but I pretended I was asleep. I kept my eyes shut and didn’t move.”

The radio car in which Deptuies Joe Rieth and J.R. Shelton were riding was immediately dispatched to the Shopping Bag Market at 920 Foothill Blvd in La Canada. The deputies roared up just as Jones, stalling for time, was fumbling with his key before unlocking the door for the bandit. The masked man ran from the cops smack into John Davis, an off-duty deputy. Davis pulled his pistol and commanded the man to halt, but the fugitive continued running even as Rieth and Shelton fired at him.

Slugs from Reith’s weapon penetrated the man’s neck, while pellets from Shelton’s shotgun peppered his legs. The man was so pumped with adrenaline that he continued to flee. When Rieth and Shelton caught up with the masked man they found him slumped over the wheel of Davis’ car desperately attempting to fire up the engine.

felled by bulletsThe critically wounded crook was taken to Physicians & Surgeons hospital, Glendale, where he gave his name as Jim Marcus.

The Sheriff’s didn’t take the man at his word which was just as well, he was lying. It didn’t take long for them to ID him as James Monroe Rudolph of Placerville, California, which is located about 450 miles from where he’d committed his most recent crimes.

Deputies found Rudolph’s late model Buick sedan parked about a block from the Jones’ home and when they searched the trunk they found some highly incriminating evidence: 100 empty money sacks (the kind used by businessmen to make bank deposits); scores of rolls of coins; and a wallet containing five $100 bills and an ID that gave Rudolph’s L.A. address as a motel at 4562 N. Figueroa Street.

Also in the car were several changes of clothing,  a .45 caliber automatic pistol, a Las Vegas police badge and a fire extinguisher loaded with a knockout solution for spraying victims, and a green scarf. The cops finally had the Green Scarf Bandit, the villain who had been eluding them for weeks.

Sheriff’s robbery squad detectives went to Placerville where they arrested Rudolph’s wife, Inge, a German war bride. Inge surrendered to the detectives two fur coats, a fur jacket, a fur neck piece, several pairs of expensive field glasses, a half dozen cameras and several thousand dollars worth of jewelry.

Inge insisted that she wasn’t a party to her husband’s misdeeds, and the police believed her. She told the cops that she thought that he had purchased the luxury items with money he had won in card games. Inge must have thought her husband was a high roller when he put over $8,000 [equivalent to $71,713.00 in current U.S. dollars) down on their $17,000 [equivalent to $152,291.00 in current U.S. dollars] home.

Rudolph and Inge had met in Germany and they married in a civil ceremony in Linz, Austria in 1947. After Rudolph’s discharge from the Army in 1949 Inge accompanied him to the U.S., first to his hometown of Atlanta, GA, then to Washington, D.C., and finally to California.

While the cops were searching the Rudolph home for more of the Green Scarf Bandit’s stolen loot, Inge traveled from Placerville to Los Angeles to visit James. When she saw his condition she wept at his bedside and then declared that she would stand by him.

While the critically wounded man was in lying in a hospital bed fighting for his life,  eight year old hero Jimmy Jones was being honored by Sheriff Biscailuz. The boy was given a miniature sheriff’s badge and Biscailuz said:

“Jimmy demonstrated a courage and calm presence of mind seldom found in a youngster of his age.”

Would James Monroe Rudolph, the man that Jimmy had helped to capture, recover from his gunshot wounds or would he die before he could be tried?

NEXT TIME: The fate of the Green Scarf Bandit.